Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

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Stoik
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Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#1 Post by Stoik » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:58 am

Allmost all "portabilized" chromium-based browsers have a serious problem recently (generally with Chromium 59, I think) :
they are not truly portable any more !

Namely, when transferring to another PC (e.g. via USB stick), all the settings and installed extensions get lost, regardless of whether I use the "portable" browser from the USB or from the other PC.

You Yourself may not notice this problem right away, if You are predominantly using portable software versions on just one PC - simply to keep the windows registry clean, etc (as I do).

My "Google research" indicates that this has to do with some bull "extra safety" in Chromium, and they are forcing You to use the Synch function via Google Account (so that they can nicely read Your bookmarks, passwords - e.g. for banking, etc). Thanks Google !

The only chromium-based browser that has found a real fix for this is Cent Browser: their portable version is truly portable, and the above mentioned problem does not occur. All the other portable chromium-based browsers are failing with the new updates: SlimJet (my favorite), Iron, Chromium, Google Chrome, Vivaldi, Opera, etc. There are a few browsers that have not failed in portability yet - simply because they are way behind on updates (e.g. SuperBird or Iridium).

I wonder what Cent Browser is doing differently ? Do You have any ideas on this topic ? How do we rescue our beloved browsers (like, in my case, SlimJet) from this "portability failure" ? I tried contacting SlimJet for this - but they are notorious for not responding to anything. John Haller, in his forum, is also referring to this problem as to an "internal build" issue - but no solutions yet (John worships the "do not alter the software" approach - which I understand, but Chromium is supposed to be an "open and public" program).
Last edited by Stoik on Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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SYSTEM
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#2 Post by SYSTEM » Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:48 am

This has been happening to me with Vivaldi for over a year. Personally I just keep reinstalling extensions whenever I switch to another PC. (Extension preferences remain, thankfully.) But I'd definitely like if it stopped happening...
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#3 Post by smaragdus » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:17 pm

@Stoik
I don't think that Iridium has ever been portable. Once I filed an issue but it was ignored by the developers.
I have never copied Cent Browser to other machines so I cannot confirm your findings but for me it is better than most Chromium forks.

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#4 Post by JohnTHaller » Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:12 pm

This isn't a recent issue. This has been going on for years. We have a warning about it on the download page and in the EULA for Chrome Portable about this specifically. I suggest either logging into Google with Google Chrome Portable or using Firefox Portable, which is fully portable and has no such lock-outs.

Note that this issue will affect you if you use portably between PCs on both USB drives and synced cloud folders. It also renders backups of Google Chrome data useless unless they are restored to the same PC's Windows install the backup was done on. You also will not be able to transfer your Chrome profile to a new PC when you eventually upgrade unless you sync to Google.
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Stoik
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#5 Post by Stoik » Mon Jul 31, 2017 3:06 am

Hi, JohnTHaller !

I am glad to hear from You, the very authority on portability.
What we (and You) are talking about CAN BE DONE, and I have 5 portable browsers listed below where it works !

Well, if You look as this post sofar, we have several guys agreeing on the issue. OK, so the observation is correct. Fine.
But the main gist of this post is - what can we do about it, and HOW is it done !

I have personally tested the transfer of settings from one PC to another,
and while it fails on most chromium-based "portable" browsers -
such as Iron, Chromium, Chrome, SlimJet (latest version 15.0.3), Vivaldi, etc,
the fully portable transfer is flawless with these portable browsers :
- Cent (latest version 2.7.4.52, uses Chromium 59), from https://www.centbrowser.com/history.html, the best !,
- SlimJet (older version 14.0.9), from http://www.slimjet.com/en/dlpage_win64.php,
- Iridium (version 57.0.0.0), from http://www.thumbapps.org/2017/01/Iridiu ... owser.html ,
- SuperBird (55.0.2878.0), from http://effect8.ru/soft/browsers/superbird-portable.html,
- Coc Coc (63.4.154), from http://www.thumbapps.org/2015/11/Coc-Co ... table.html.

You may notice that, other than Cent Browser and older SlimJet,
the other successful portabilizations were done not by the original developers,
but by external people who made portabilized versions - like our John Haller.
Whether these people behind http://www.thumbapps.org or effect8.ru will share the trick with us,
or jealously guard their "cleverness", that we shall see.

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#6 Post by JohnTHaller » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:25 am

There's no trick to those other portable browsers. The base apps are built from Chromium without the lock down features enabled. Note that more than one of those launchers are actually just mildly modded versions of our Chrome, Iron, Opera, or the Chromium Portable launcher. The lock down ability of Chrome is a specific feature implemented by the Chrome team to prevent third party bundleware from modifying the homepage, new tab page, search engine, or installed extensions. The way it works is that it secures and hashes the settings files for Chrome on exit using an algorithm based on your currently logged in Windows account. On start, Chrome verifies these hashes. If anything changes, the settings files are dumped. So, your start page, search engine settings, and all extension settings are unceremoniously deleted with the only notification being a small message if you open options. This happens if a single character is changed in the options files.

Iridium et al simply don't have this feature enabled in their build. Neither does Chromium. Neither does Chrome on Linux for that matter. So there's nothing special about these other portable launchers. They're bundling in Chromium compiled with the checks disabled as Chromium itself is. I'd recommend Chromium Portable above the others as it is fully open source, based on Chromium itself, and regularly updated.
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SYSTEM
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#7 Post by SYSTEM » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:54 am

JohnTHaller wrote:So, your start page, search engine settings, and all extension settings are unceremoniously deleted with the only notification being a small message if you open options. This happens if a single character is changed in the options files.
My experience with Vivaldi is that extension settings remain. (Extensions themselves don't.)
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#8 Post by JohnTHaller » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:27 am

SYSTEM wrote:My experience with Vivaldi is that extension settings remain. (Extensions themselves don't.)
I'd wager different Chrome/Chromium-based browsers have different pieces of it enabled. I know for a fact Chrome used to wipe all extension settings, but I seem to recall a user report that that had changed in the last year and it acted as you're describing Vivaldi, preserving extension settings but dropping the extensions themselves.
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#9 Post by Stoik » Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:47 am

Dear John Haller,

Your one but last comment above (starting with "There's no trick to those other portable browsers")
is very logical, and it sounds like we nailed the cause !
And only when You correctly diagnose the cause, can You fix the problem.

The essence of Your "theory" (of what is causing this portability problem) is this:
1. the "lock down feature" is the cause of our problem,
2. Chrome (by Google) has a "lock down feature" enabled, while Chromium (the original) does not have this feature enabled.

But whether a "theory" is correct or not (like Newton's theory of gravitation, or Darwin's theory of evolution)
is only determined by whether it holds in practice - so I put it to the test.
If the theory is correct, then portable Chromium will not loose customized settings when transferred to another PC via USB.

I used the latest Chromium version (61.0.3153.0), and tested it with three common "portabilizers" (to be absolutely sure) :
1. the "original portabilizer" by the Chromium development team (from SourceForge),
2. the "ThumbApps portabilizer" from http://www.thumbapps.org/, and
3. the "WinPenPack" portabilizer from http://www.winpenpack.com.

Results (did Chromium's customized settings transfer to another PC ?) :
1. Chromium with "original portabilizer" - fail,
2. Chromium with "ThumbApps portabilizer" - fail,
3. Chromium with "WinPenPack portabilizer" - fail.

John, it looks like Your theory (as to the cause of our problem) is incorrect !
Or did I misunderstand something (I often do) ?

It does seem, as John suggested, that the problem is not in the portabilizer, but inside Chromium (and Chrome).
The makers of Cent Browser, Iridium, SuperBird, and Coc Coc seem to tweak something inside Chromium - just what ?
The fact that none of them ever replied to my inquiries suggests that
they might be guarding their secret in order to be ahead of the rest of us (e.g. this made me switch from SlimJet to Cent).

Any thoughts anyone ?
John - thanks for You continued engagement (much, much appreciated) !

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#10 Post by JohnTHaller » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:51 am

They may have changed it to enable the lockdown on Windows builds of Chromium as well as Chrome. I know Chromium used to work without issue as you move PCs. I haven't checked in quite a while, though.

There's a reason I use and recommend Firefox Portable for use portably. It works without issue by design.

Switching the lockdown on and off may very well be trivial. kalug would be the one to ask. He builds Chromium Portable.
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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#11 Post by Stoik » Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:32 pm

JohnTHaller wrote :
Switching the lockdown on and off may very well be trivial. kalug would be the one to ask. He builds Chromium Portable.
John, could You - please - submit this question to Kalug (or refer him to this discussion), since I do not know how to reach him.
Plus, Your reputation (I am avoiding the term "software celebrity") makes it much more likely that we well get a reply from him.

The fix may be as simple as changing one word in the code (e.g. from "true" to "false" in a certain line).

JohnTHaller wrote :
There's a reason I use and recommend Firefox Portable for use portably. It works without issue by design.
You are totally right !
Firefox was my favorite browser in the past, and will be again soon - once they
complete this lengthy transition to multi-tasking, and the new extension format.
But currently I find Chromium far superior in speed (launching browser, displaying pages)
and stability (GUI does not "stagger", single bad java-script or browser extension cannot crash the browser).
Even when Firefox is back to number one (soon), it is good to have alternatives
(the monopoly of one engine is unhealthy, as we know from the old IE days).

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#12 Post by webfork » Sun Aug 06, 2017 11:09 am

Stoik wrote:could You - please - submit this question to Kalug
You might try lobbying the Chromium site. If you get changes made there, they affect all the other Blink-based browser iterations.
Stoik wrote:Firefox was my favorite browser in the past, and will be again soon - once they complete this lengthy transition to multi-tasking, and the new extension format.
If you want better software, you've got to get onboard with the folks making it. Even just using Firefox and submiting telemetry (Options - Advanced - Data Choices) can help accelerate improvements. Meanwhile, everytime you use Chrome (or whatever knock-off version), you're actively giving the company money via valuable consumer activity data.

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#13 Post by Stoik » Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:09 pm

JohnTHaller wrote :
Switching the lockdown on and off may very well be trivial. Kalug would be the one to ask. He builds Chromium Portable.
WebFork wrote :
You might try lobbying the Chromium site. If you get changes made there, they affect all the other Blink-based browser iterations.
Thanks for the thoughts ! Sadly ...
My previous efforts to lobby anything related to software development were dismal failures - completely ignored, no response whatsoever.

If You two guys (JohnTHaller and WebFork) do not have the time or interest for this issue,
could You at least point me and the rest of us in the right direction a bit more specifically :
1. JohnTHaller - how can I reach this Kalug (preferably directly, not indirectly - the way I am reaching You now) ?
2. WebFork - the Chromium site is a "huge ocean", can You direct me more specifically,
did You perhaps mean "https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/list"
or (hopefully) something more specific (since this is not exactly an issue or a problem, but rather a feature request ) ?

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#14 Post by webfork » Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:50 pm

the Chromium site is a "huge ocean", can You direct me ... to something more specific (since this is not exactly an issue or a problem, but rather a feature request)?
First, I really have no idea and, more to the point, that's not really how this works. Each community is different and I don't know the specific norms and values of the Chrome community. I have no special contacts. I used DuckDuckGo to get the address I sent you. More than that, I don't know the specific place to ask, how to ask, how to make a case for my idea, and how to follow it through to fruition.

Second, assuming that Haller has some special access because he has a name in free software sort of ignores why developers get motivated to do things in the first place (money and fame among them). Since you can't possibly nudge Chromium development with money, I imagine a groundswell of interest by the community might tip the scales. However, even then you can't be sure what a gazillion dollar company like Google that funds all this development is really going to pay attention to.

If memory serves, Android has had VPN bugs (this one especially) that have gone unfixed and where the community was VERY concerned. Google? Not so much. I have a hard time seeing them paying attention to a small feature element like the one we'd like to see.
My previous efforts to lobby anything related to software development were dismal failures - completely ignored, no response whatsoever.
I'm sorry your last attempt at collaboration or lobbying in software development were failures, but that's kind of how this works. You push a bit and see what happens. Some projects would be more than happy to hear your ideas while some will berate you. I've developed a fairly thick skin and will just move on to the next project. There's certainly no shortage of good projects and interesting ideas.

Whatever you do I strongly recommend spending a few weeks on Github. I've been amazed by the work people do and that site has a fairly good way to quickly and easily get involved.
Last edited by webfork on Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: (better wording)

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Re: Chromium-Based Browsers - Portability Problem !

#15 Post by JohnTHaller » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:32 am

I pinged kalug directly via email but have not heard back.

The last time this came up as a bug (preventing Chrome from being copied from one PC to another without logging into Google), I believe it was called a 'feature' and tagged as WONTFIX. If that's the case, it's likely Google itself has set this as an edict and no amount of grumbling in the Chromium community will change it. Google was having issues with Windows bundleware changing Chrome's default homepage and search engine to one of those silly 'helper' sites and wanted to lock it down. This is their lockdown method. Ironically, bundleware is a major distribution mechanism for Chrome, particularly via tricking users to install when updating their free antivirus.

The bottom line is that this is the way Chrome works and it is unlikely to change. Our only real 'vote' in the matter is to vote by switching to another browser.
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